Beaufort News

Native islander group is getting a facelift

The interim executive director of the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association wants to raise money, jump-start dormant programs and revamp the 16-year-old nonprofit organization on Hilton Head Island.

Charles Young III recently was named the association's interim executive director.

He replaces co-founder James Mitchell, who had been the association's president and CEO since its inception but left in November to become Bluffton's community development director.

Young, who recently was appointed to Hilton Head's Planning Commission, has led the association's monthlong Gullah Celebration each February for 10 years and owns C&J Lawn Service with his wife, Jeanette.

Young said the association has lost board members and experienced declines in finances and activities in recent years.

"The organization had just started dwindling," said Young, a native islander who was one of the first graduates of NIBCAA's entrepreneurial training program. "We just had to be revitalized."

In addition to organizing the Gullah Celebration, the association advises members on how to start and run businesses and leads groups such as property owners associations.

NIBCAA previously provided revolving loans to businesses, worked to preserve heirs property and offered a youth program, but some of those programs haven't been conducted for several years, Young said.

Tax returns show the organization operated with a surplus of more than $4,000 in the 2007 tax year but lost about $4,000 in 2008 and about $5,000 in 2009. The Hilton Head Island Native Community Association, a separate organization that raises money for NIBCAA, operated with a surplus in both 2008 and 2009 but did not generate enough to cover NIBCAA's expenses, returns show.

Young has yet to discuss details of his plans with the board, he said, but he is eager to restart the youth and heirs property programs and intends to seek grants to fund the association's work.

The association, which also has an administrative assistant, leases space in the Beaufort County government center on William Hilton Parkway but is looking for a larger location, Young said.

He doesn't expect to restart the loan program.

Mitchell estimated the association made $2 million in loans to 185 businesses in 10 years. About three years ago, however, association leaders decided to stop the program and return the pool of capital to the lenders who provided it, he said.

"Most people paid, but delinquencies were high enough it caused us to end the program," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he's pleased the new leadership is trying to build momentum.

He said it likely will be difficult, but not impossible, for the association to fund more programs, which he said are needed to help local minority-owned businesses grow.

"It's exciting the people involved want to do that and reinvigorate the organization and get it moving again," Mitchell said. "It's great for the organization and great for the community."